BlackBerry isn’t giving up on phones with physical keyboards, but the company does appear to be backing off the concept.
The company recently announced that it will no longer make the BlackBerry Classic. The handset was first launched in late 2014 as a replacement for the BlackBerry Bold.
This may be the end of the Classic handset but it isn't the end of physical keyboards for BlackBerry. The company still produces the Passport, which features a smaller physical keyboard to create more space for the phone’s touchscreen. There's also the Android-based BlackBerry Priv, which has a slide-out keyboard.
What is going away is BlackBerry’s iconic physical keyboard design—though the Priv's keyboard is its spiritual successor in some ways. The company said it is discontinuing the Classic to make way for new devices.
“The Classic has long surpassed the average lifespan for a smartphone in today’s market. We are ready for this change so we can give our customers something better,” COO and general manager for devices Ralph Pini said in a recent blog post.
It’s possible that BlackBerry could launch a new phone with the classic keyboard, but Pini’s post strongly implies we won’t see a replacement in its refreshed lineup.
Why this matters: BlackBerry devices have been declining in usage ever since the introduction of the iPhone nearly ten years ago. The apparent end of BlackBerry’s long-popular keyboard is something of a milestone in the story of the modern smartphone. BlackBerry, meanwhile, hopes to buoy its sagging user base with Android phones.